A couple of days ago I posted a blog page that said photography was one of my favorite hobbies. My second favorite (there are many more favorite hobbies) is reading. And for seniors, there is no better way to read than Libby.
Libby is a free software app that works on Apple and Android mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) so that you can “borrow” books to read or to listen to them. Libby is the second generation app from developer OverDrive to support digital reading from public libraries.
Of course, we all know that reading books (or listening to them) is great for seniors. It keeps us sharp, active, knowledgeable, and more. Regardless if you purchase them from your local bookstore, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble – books are expensive.
Seniors who love to read (some read two or three books a week) and live on a fixed income have difficulty in justifying purchasing books.
Sure, you can walk, take an Uber, bus, or drive to your local library to borrow a book or sit and read but why? Paper books look and smell great. But if you are a tree hugger books are made of paper and paper is made from trees. Printing inks, binding glue, and delivery of books to stores by trucks all cause a carbon footprint.
The Libby app has similar reading tools like Barnes & Noble Nook and Amazon’s Kindle reading apps. Bookmarks, type font changes, themes, lookups, highlighting, search, and page location syncs between devices are all supported.
Check with your local public library and see if they do offer digital reading and audiobooks. If they do download the Libby app from the Apple or Android app store, enter your library card number and get reading!
Digital photography is one of my favorite hobbies. For years I’ve carried large, heavy, and unwieldy DSLR cameras around my neck. I’ve used Sony alpha series cameras and they have served me well.
Since 2007 I’ve also used the cameras in my Apple iPhone as a back up. The Sony has been used for “serious” shots, and the iPhone for “simple” (non-serious?) shots. Each year as I’ve purchased new iPhones the camera and software have gotten better and more sophisticated. My last couple of iPhones – an iPhone 7 Plus, and the latest iPhone X have included dual lens cameras. One lens is for regular use (sort of wide angle), and the other lens is for telephoto (2x) use.
The iPhone X camera hardware and software are so good that I have begun using the system as my primary go-to camera and photo editing “lab.” But I wanted to add a lens for every day and particular use – like super wide-angle, or fisheye, or even more telephoto and macro close-ups.
I think I’ve found the answer in a lens system called “CONNECT X” from Olloclips. Olloclips has made a snap-on lens for iPhones and some Android phones for the last five-plus years. I’ve tried them on older iPhones with some good luck, and some frustration concerning attachment and detachment.
A couple of weeks ago Olloclips sent me an email that they were releasing a new connection system for the iPhone X that was easy to use, aggressively priced, and flexible.
The Olloclip system is easy to use and extremely clever in its design. Each lens can be flipped and used with either of the back two Apple camera or the front camera. Using the Olloclip “Slim Case,” the lens holder can be easily attached or detached. Each lens is metal and glass. Well designed and sharp in their views.
I purchased the “Mobile Photography Box Set” for the iPhone X ($99.99). It includes three lens – super wide, macro 15x, and a fisheye. The set also comes with the easy-to-attach and use clip system for attaching to your iPhone X. In addition, I purchased the telephoto 2X lens which should make the iPhone X into a 4X camera.
Finally, I bought the “Slim Case” for the iPhone X for $29.99 which provides back and side protection for the phone as well as an oversized opening to attach the Olloclip CONNECT X system. Be aware the CONNECT X system does not work with any other protective case for the iPhone (even Apple’s). You will need to remove your protective case to use CONNECT X unless you buy Olloclip’s “Slim Case.” The good news is that most front screen protectors (I use and recommend Zagg’s “Sapphire Defense” extreme hybrid glass cover that has sapphire infused into the glass) can be used and do not have to be removed when using the CONNECT X base and lens’.
I could spend the next few paragraphs describing the photographic quality of each lens, and how easy it is to put on and take off. I could also show you dozens of photos that I, or others, have taken with the system. But I won’t. You can see lots of videos, before and after photos, etc. on the Olloclip.com website. Trust me this stuff is reasonably priced, built like a tank, cleverly designed, and easy-to-use. You can also go to instagram.com and search by the tag #olloclip to see photos made by Apple iPhone Olloclip users.
Last night during the Loyola-Chicago vs Michigan NCAA Final Four game a very strange thing happened.
We were watching the game on our flat panel TV with the new Apple HomePod sitting just in front of it.
With about three minutes left in the game, Apple broadcast a TV commercial in which the voice said… “Hey Siri, remind me to watch the NCAA final game on Monday.” At this point the Apple HomePod came to life and said, “OK, I have scheduled a reminder for you on Monday.”
Wow! Is this cool technology when your television can program your computer “appliance” (the Apple HomePod) to set a reminder for you? What’s next? What could this mean for the future? Will the furniture store TV commercial tell Siri (who is always listening) to remind you that the sale of the century (the one held every other week) is Tuesday and be sure to be there at 10 AM when the doors open.
Or, how about the clever politician on TV who asks Siri to remind you that you need to remember to vote for him or her on Tuesday when the polls open at 7:45 AM. Or…
Is this “Big Brother” watching, listening, speaking or commanding?
OK Apple, it was cute the first time. But the second and the third?
And I’m sure it would work in a similar way on Amazon’s Alexa.
Well, after ten versions Apple apparently has gotten it right with the IOS 10 operating system. An operating system (OS) – regardless if it’s Apple, Google, Microsoft, or others – is never really finished. It is always a work in progress; features are added, bugs are squashed, compatibility with third party applications (apps) is improved – the list goes on and on.
If the operating system developer had only one hardware device to write OS software for it might be easier to get it right. Writing OS code that works reliably on an iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Apple Watch, and Apple TV for current devices, as well as for older devices, is quite a trick. There are thousands of permutations. Getting it right is very difficult, time consuming, and R&D expensive.
Apple is just about the only hardware manufacturer that also writes its own OS software. Samsung, Lenovo, Sharp, HTC, and dozens of others hardware manufacturers depend on OS software written by companies like Google (who makes Android OS software) and Microsoft (who makes Windows OS software) to develop their operating system software. Yes, I’m aware that Google also manufacturers the Google phone and the Chromebook, and that Microsoft manufacturers the Surface laptop. But these are “one-off” machines.
A few quick examples of improvements in IOS 10:
1. A completely redesigned Maps app that is simpler, bolder looking, and easier to use. A major improvement in day-to-day use. Location accuracy is also much better.
2. You can now read voicemail messages as well as listen to them. The voice transcription is pretty accurate and predictable.
3. The Photos app now includes the ability to organize by faces and map locations. Now you can easily find all the photos of your children and your friends. The map locations allows you to see all the photos you took in a specific location (as determined by GPS).
4. Siri is now open to developers so that you can directly tie into services such as Uber.
5. The music app tied to Apple Music is greatly improved in look and feel (see an expanded description below).
6. The Messages app has gone crazy! It has its own App Store. Add stickers, GIF’s, emojis and more.
7. iPhones now support a “raise to wake” feature that lets you see notifications without having to push a button.
8. The ability to remove Apple default (stock) apps like Stock, Weather, and most others. They can be reloaded later if you wish.
One detailed example:
When Apple introduced the “Music” app two years ago it was a mess. Missing options (like sorting lists), difficult navigation going from one area to another, inconsistency of menus are just a few examples. For a company that had just introduced its new 30-million-track service, like Spotify, it was a lame first attempt.
Last year’s IOS 9 update was somewhat better – but still not truly Apple in look or feel.
This year’s IOS 10 update is much better; a simpler, more stark appearing interface is easier to understand and use, with black and white graphics and text, while color is employed sparingly for emphasis. Sorting by artist, album, release date, and more, is available throughout the application. Song lyrics are also available for most tracks. The star rating system has returned to the joy of many long time iTunes users.
On a different subject – creativity:
Apple has been criticized for a lack of creativity since the death of one of its founders – Steve Jobs. I’m not sure that criticism is deserved. Here are three examples of recent product innovations.
1. The Apple Watch (second edition), has met with success from the media, retail, and the user communities. It’s now water-resistant, has a faster processor, improved operating system (3rd generation), longer battery life, and a less expensive starting price.
2. The Apple “W1” Bluetooth audio chip was just released. It is used on the new Apple AirPod wireless headphones, and several of the new Beats (owned by Apple) brand of wireless headphones. The W1 chips offers:
a. Extreme battery life – 40 hours of playtime vs 2-4 hours of most other wireless headphones.
b. Extreme range (distance) – up to 300 feet vs 33 feet of most other Bluetooth devices.
c. Simple pairing (connecting) interface – works with any Apple IOS 10 device by simply connecting to your first device, and then the rest of your devices are auto connected (if you use the same Apple ID on all of your devices).
3. The recently introduced MacBook Pro laptops with a new OLED color touch-bar located above the keyboard that dynamically changes depending on the software app being used.
My bottom line:
Apple is not perfect; not even close. But in many ways, they have innovative design, solid manufacturing, and great (read: loyal) customer support. I admit to being an Apple “fan boy”. 2017 will see the tenth anniversary of the iPhone. It will be interesting to see what improvements and new features will be added to IOS 11. Stay tuned!
We just finished our first river cruise and it was fabulous! If you watched “Downton Abbey” on PBS you saw commercials for Viking River Cruises. Those beautiful long ships cruising up and down famous rivers in Central Europe with vineyards, castles, palaces and beautiful German maidens passing you down a beer from off a bridge as you sail under it. Ahhhh…
It was a great voyage – made even more fun with Apple mobile technology. I’d like to share a few techno things to help on your next vacation cruise – regardless if it is an ocean or river cruise. This is an update to my January 2015 ocean cruise review.
The good news is that practically all my gear worked on the plane and on the ship. The bad news is that it is not inexpensive and connections are slow and not very reliable. I brought along my iPhone 6s Plus, iPad Air, Apple Watch, Beats headphones, Sony Alpha 55 DSLR camera, a few cables and one power “brick” that had five USB outlets. I have a great custom backpack that is designed to hold all my gear – it even has a special storage section for the iPad.
Before leaving I went to AT&T (my cellular provider) and signed up for the $30 per month International travel option. This gave me $1.00 per minute calls, unlimited texting and a whole 150MB of data (for checking email, etc.) It wasn’t until the second day of our trip that I checked my account status and I was already way over 250MB of data. What?!? I had forgotten that being a tech guy I had my iPhone set to do automatic uploads from my Photos app, nightly backups to iCloud and other assorted syncs and backups. Ouch! I quickly changed my settings.
We flew Delta and in the United States most planes now have WiFi which runs about $8 – $10 for a 24 hour “pass.” Speed is acceptable, and reliability was very good. On the river cruise ship Viking offered free WiFi (we paid Royal Caribbean about $225 for a similar WiFi service on our last ocean cruise.) Speed was very slow, and reliability was just “OK.” Don’t plan on streaming video or uploading photos. Audio streaming was just “OK” with a few disconnects. Email and dial-up type web browsing were “OK.”
During our vacation I took over 1,000 of photos with the Sony DSLR, the iPhone, and the iPad. I backed them up to my iPad (just in case…) using an Apple Lightning SD card (from the Sony) connector and used “AirDrop” to transfer wirelessly from the iPhone. When we arrived at our AirBnB rental apartment in Amsterdam at the end of our trip (where we had decent WiFi) I backed everything up to iCloud.
Our trip took us to Hungary, Austria, Germany and the Netherlands. When we were on shore it was easy to connect to low-cost or free WiFi services. You may want to use a VPN (virtual private network) service while you travel when use use foreign WiFi services so that you don’t get hacked.
Before we left home I downloaded some music and a few movies to my iPad and that made travel time on planes, and quiet times on the ship enjoyable. I also downloaded a couple of books both digital and audio through iBooks and Audible.com
I carried my iPhone in my front pocket (to avoid pick-pockets) and left the iPad on the ship in our cabins provided safe.
I must admit that I was amazed at the number of fellow passengers who used digital devices on the plane and on the ship. Mobile technology has really caught on for vacationers.
Here are a few cruising tips:
Pack one USB charger that has multiple USB connections. Mine supports five devices.
Make sure that the ship and rental apartments support US 110 volt AC cords. You may want to invest in a lightweight set of travel plugs. Our ship did. Our rental apartment did not (we needed a converter plug).
Bring a second rechargeable battery and charging block for your DSLR camera.
Get a “Y” audio connector – so that you and your spouse can share music, books, or video with two sets of headphones to one device.
Bring along a second RAM storage card for your DSLR camera
Use an app like “Day One” Journal 2 to record your daily vacation notes so you can remember the name of that church or cathedral – and the name of that fabulous German beer was. Keep up with your journal everyday!
Shoot a mix of photos and short videos (30-60 seconds) and build an iMovie show from them.
In larger European cities use Uber or Lyft to get around. More reliable and cheaper than regular taxi’s.
Use AirBnB for apartment and home rentals to save significant dollars over standard hotels. Look at the owner reviews before making commitments.
Carry a money belt or one of the around the neck security bags with RFID protection. There are many pick pockets in larger European cities and they hang around cathedrals, airports, museums, concert venues, train stations and more.
Most of the countries we visited accepted Euros. Most museums, restaurants and shops accepted credit and debit cards as long as the card has a Visa or MasterCard logo on it. Most ATM machines accepted debit cards for cash advances – spitting out your new funds in Euros.
Check with your cellular provider in regards to using your phone overseas. If you don’t you could come home to hundreds of dollars worth of charges for calls, texts, and email checking. Have your provider help with turning off settings that have to do with backups and auto uploads and auto synchronization.
Bottom line – traveling with digital devices can be entertaining, informational and useful. Just make sure you take precautionary steps in advance.
A lot of my friends – and a lot of you readers – have asked me what apps do you recommend? As an Apple “fan-boy” since 1978 I’ve used hundreds of apps on every Apple device imaginable. Over the years my long list of devices have included the Apple ][, Apple ///, Apple Lisa, Apple Mac, iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Apple Watch, and Apple TV.
Quite frankly there is no such thing as the perfect app. Every app developer thinks their app is the best. Few are. Even great ones like Numerous for the iPhone/iPad which had over 150,000 active users recently died an untimely death due to a lack of customer funding. The history of computer apps (from an earlier term: applications) is littered with a few standouts and thousands of little purchased and little used want-to-be’s.
To give you an idea how big the market for apps is, consider that Apple has over 1,500,000 apps available for the iPhone, iPad, and the iPod Touch. There are more than 15,000 apps available for the Apple Watch. In less than a year the Apple TV 4 has grown from 40 apps to over 5,000. Apps range in price from free to a thousand dollars or more! The average price for an IOS app for consumer use is $1.99. I’ve never understood how a person who spends hundreds of dollars on a new iPhone or iPad complains about the cost of an app that costs only a couple-of-bucks and has a lifetime of free upgrades.
I’ve compiled a list of my all-time top ten favorite apps for your consideration. Each app I use almost daily and each provides a good mix of features, performance and reliability. Note that some are free, some require a monthly or annual subscription, and a couple are reasonably priced. The list is in no particular order.
All of these apps work on iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches. Some also work on the Apple Watch, Apple TV and the Apple Mac.
Apple updates its software and has new product introductions all year round – but the most important ones usually come in the fall.
DO I NEED TO UPDATE MY DEVICE?
No, for the most part. Certainly the old axiom of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” could apply here, but there are many good reasons to update your IOS software. New features, improved features, better security, bug fixes, new or improved Apple brand apps – and dozens of other things are all valid reasons to update.
I’M AFRAID TO UPDATE – I MIGHT SCREW SOMETHING UP!
Updates are easy – and usually safe – if you follow these steps:
1. Start by closing all open app’s on your device. Do this by double-tapping the home button at the bottom of the screen. You will see minature screens of each open app. Now use your finger tip to slide (swipe up) each open app window to the top of the screen – making it disappear. When you are done you should only have one screen open that can’t be closed.
2. Next restart/reboot your device by holding the power button and the home button down at the same time. In a few seconds your screen will go black – KEEP HOLDING – until you see the white Apple logo – and then let go of both of your fingers on the buttons at the same time.
3. Make sure that your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch are backed up. The best way is to do a full back up useing Apple’s iTunes software (make sure that the iTunes software is the most current version before doing this). The iTunes software is most likely already on your Mac, and can also be downloaded from the Apple support web site if you have a Windows PC. Make sure that the “Encrypt iPhone back up” box is checked before you start the back up. This way all your passwords, user names, PIN’s, health information and other secure stuff gets put in the back up file so that if you need to restore all that information is recovered.
4. After you have completed a back up go into the “Settings” App on your IOS device and scroll to find “General” settings. From there find “Software Update.” Now before starting make sure that your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch has a battery charge of at least 50% or more. Then choose “Start or Download” – allow 30-45 minutes for the software to download, verify, install and then reboot a time or two. You will need to know your Apple ID and password to complete the update.
OK – SO YOU UPDATED YOUR IOS SOFTWARE – WHAT’S NEXT?
Sit back, relax and try out the new features of IOS 9. Try the new and improved “Notes” app. Notice the small (but usually noticiable) increase in speed and battery life. There are many reasons to love Apple. Certainly one is frequent updates that are always FREE. Enjoy!